What Pokémon Go Reveals About the Future of Education


  I must admit I’m fascinated with Pokémon Go. I don’t get it. I don’t play it. But it has captivated the world, and I’m paying attention.


I wouldn’t have known about it if it didn’t come up as a result of my interactions with students –a top priority for me. It’s important that I meet and spend time with every freshman student. Even though our growth has put a strain on being able to do that, I’m committed to continuing to make time for it no matter how big we get.


So when I saw students across our campus playing this strange game, I had to learn more.


If you’re not familiar with Pokémon Go, let me fill you in. This game bridges the digital and physical worlds more effectively than anything I’ve ever seen before. You search for locations of digital characters using a dedicated app along with your smartphone’s GPS and camera. The more figures you collect, the more levels you unlock.


Pokémon Go isn’t going to solve world hunger, poverty, or injustice. But it does give you and me a window into what’s possible and what’s coming. While others preach against progress, I firmly believe that Pokémon Go represents a bright and exciting future.


Just because I don’t play Pokémon Go doesn’t mean I can’t learn something from it. When you stop opening yourself up to new things and experiences, you quickly enter dangerous territory. The world is constantly changing. My job as a leader and educator is to observe, understand, and adapt to that change.


  • Think about the horse and buggy company that opened the day after the first Model T rolled off the assembly line.
  • Think about the new scribe apprentice whose first day was the day after Guttenberg’s Bible rolled off his new printing press.
  • Think about the map makers who invested in the next round of updates the day after GPS became available.


Technology is the invention of human beings attempting to resolve persistent problems such as access, engagement, and collaboration. Pokémon Go is part of that evolution. Don’t let the fact that it’s a game force you to overlook what’s taking place. We are on the precipice of a huge and important shift; education and learning as we know them today will change forever.


You can either embrace progress and change or become irrelevant.


Even if you choose to plant your feet and stay exactly where you are right now, that doesn’t mean the rest of the world is going to wait on you. Don’t chase shiny objects, but acknowledge a breakthrough when it hits you right in the face. Be open to what you can learn from it, and allow it to open you up to new possibilities. This is what design thinking is all about.


If any group should be paying attention to Pokémon Go, it should be educators. This immersive experience is the first model you can point to that demonstrates the power of augmented reality and the power of what’s possible with the right blend of digital and physical experiences. How exciting!


Soon we won’t just talk about culture, geography, or history; students will experience those things inside any classroom in a multi-dimensional and multi-sensory way. Augmented reality will allow educators to not just transmit knowledge but create an experience that could impact a student forever.


Pokémon Go highlights five realities that will be requirements for learning shortly (if not already):


  1. Digital will no longer be optional. Embrace technology. Your students already have.
  2. Time and space will no longer limit experiences. Augmented reality is still in its infancy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look for ways to turn learning into an experience rather than simply a transaction.
  3. Gamification will increasingly become part of the learning process. Humans love to compete. In addition to traditional grading structures, look for ways to create a progressive point system with prizes along the way.
  4. Change will take place more frequently than it ever has. The development of technology isn’t slowing down; it’s speeding up. Pokémon Go will be forgotten soon enough. What will remain is the knowledge of what’s possible. That will spur new possibilities and experiences.
  5. Curiosity is the currency of the future. Stay curious about the world around you. It will keep your ideas fresh as well as keep you connected to the students in your class.


Don’t worry; I won’t be playing Pokémon Go. But I would strongly encourage you to find a student or two who does get excited about it and tag along to experience just what I’m talking about. I promise you’ll be talking about what you observe for weeks to come.


What a privilege you and I have to live, lead, and teach during this season of change! Be open to what an immersive experience looks like in your classroom and the impact it could have on your students.


CHALLENGE: Invite students to share with you how you can make the classroom and learning more immersive with technology. Then invite them to help you make those changes.